Stella and I slept together for a week just before she was due to give birth until one night she began to scrabble around and dig into the carpet. I am not sure either of us slept very well from that point.
I left the curtains drawn with a cosy area set up under a dressing table, with clean towels and mats covering as much of the floor as possible.
Time and matters took their own course and some hours later a tiny shape began to leave Stella’s body and enter the world. Stella was not quite sure what she had done but cleaned her precious bundle, talking, licking and pushing the tiny puppy with her nose. I leaned in to check it was breathing and that it looked fine. I touched her puppy carefully and moved it slightly. She looked at me with huge eyes, picked the puppy up to remove my hand and placed it within the semi circle of her body.
Another hour passed before the next puppy arrived which had given the first one time to begin to suckle. Stella had so clearly fallen in love with her baby. The same process continued and, inevitably, despite my efforts to put towels under Stella, she would find the corner of the carpet not covered but that would have to wait..
In total, six little puppies appeared. Stella did a lot of talking and they began to do a lot of squeaking. I did a lot of lying down watching and felt very lucky to follow this part of life.
Having popped them to the vet to check Stella over, she then settled into her own proper “bedroom” with all the puppies in a whelping box, large cushions outside it for close human family to lie down on and somewhere for her to sit as the puppies slept, their tummies wonderfully round. There is also a comfortable wicker chair, plenty of water and constant room service.
For four or five days Stella hardly left the tiny creatures. She would just pop out quickly and dash back again. Now, the puppies tummies can hold more milk and Stella has changed her own routine a little. She spends time relaxing or goes a little further with her other four legged friends and family. The latter are two gates away so they can all hear each other but Stella has security and privacy.
When puppies are born they can neither see nor hear. Their eyes don’t open until about two weeks after birth and it is a further week before their ears and hearing develops.
But they can smell and it is on this sense along with touch upon which they rely. A dog’s sense of smell is some 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than yours or mine. Apparently we have about 6 million olfactory receptors but dogs have about 300 million and much more of a dog’s brain is focused on scent. It is through scent that the puppies find and bond with Stella and their siblings.
All the puppies intuitively pile together in a heap. They are instinctively highly social animals wanting the reassurance of company. Every day that passes they seem to swell in size, tummy crawling and collapsing on top of each other.
Puppies are a gift of unconditional love, a good reason to get up, to have a purpose and to go for walk in the morning. They rely on us for food, exercise and love and are devoted companions even if we do not always deserve it. In return, we need to be responsible for them. It is a shared journey but sharing is caring, isn’t it?!